Every month I take time to look closely at the planned events for the next month. This means a detailed look at each day and how the regular events of the work day are going to fit in with all the “extras” that have been agreed to and “sort-of scheduled” as I said yes to meeting with this group, talking to that person, being involved in that activity and speaking or ministering here and then there and simply jotted down the appointment with little thought to the overall scheme of the day or the week. Now I need to sort out driving times, preparation slots, who else I can see while there in that neck-of-the-woods and how to still “have a life” with all these events and activities going on. A monthly event – near the start of the month looking in detail at the next month yet to begin so I have lots of time to make adjustments before that month becomes reality.
In other words, I work out in serious details the next month – my job some time near the start of the month before. So, by now, the daily details of January and a lot of February are already set – allowing some flexibility but not a great deal simply due to what needs to be accomplished and done.
While doing all of this – and it is almost automatic after many years of living this way – I work with some detail on the next three months of daily life and ministry so that I can say yes or no to family events and other “social” times and events of regular life and the family. As well, I then know the open time slots for important things that just arise at the spur of the moment and any emergencies that might happen or good opportunities to impact lives with the Gospel that show up without much warning. In other words, detailed but still somewhat flexible.
I plan and book major events (week-long camps and overseas trips, for example) up to 2 years in advance. You can’t be spontaneous about these things as facilities need to be rented, advertising drawn up, money raised, teams formed, plane tickets purchased and so on.
In the midst of this long-term planning and detailed daily scheduling I have some serious priorities … first my time with God. This is both a detailed, daily thing as well as long term. I have time set aside every day to be with the Lord – both as soon as possible in the day and then last thing at night. Both of these “times” are somewhat flexible due to the nature of my life. My mornings are scheduled for around 5:30. However, if I don’t arrive home from a road trip until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning then the 5:30 becomes 7:30. The nature of my work causes this but also allows me the flexibility to work around this. The point: God is always first and last on my mind every day.
In the short-term planning I work on carving out a day and sometimes two in a month when I can spend extended time with the Lord. Not the whole day, of course. Simply a good chunk of time to do some deeper thinking and to ask the Lord what in my life needs some adjusting and where He would like to see some improvements and change. “Search me, O God…”.
And, as I look at the long-term planning I also make sure that God remains a priority and I attempt to schedule in and then guard time with him … a 3 day retreat every three months and a week long extended time with the Lord annually or semi-annually should I be so blessed. This is not hard to do really. Everyone has long weekends … everyone except preachers as Sundays always fall in the middle of the long weekends. However, I book off the Sunday (from preaching not from attending the assembly of the saints) and spend three days every quarter in extended time in God’s presence and enjoying a mini-retreat while remaining at home.
The week-long time with the Lord can either be done as part of your annual vacation leave or worked in as part of your EDOs (earned days off). Where there is a will there is a way and no one is busier than someone else really … it is simply a matter of wanting to do this and making it a priority. You can go away by yourself and have a week alone – or, if your home affords you the privacy and quiet – you can accomplish this week in the comfort of home (if you can ignore the phone, the doorbell, the mail, the television, the radio, the….).
So, in the midst of daily details of work and a large family and while planning months and yes, even years ahead, I actually put first the King and the Kingdom and schedule time with Him daily, weekly, monthly and annually. And then work hard to protect and guard that time – keeping it and my heart only for Him.
I’m working on schedules – and it is slow and methotical work that occupies a great many of my brain cells and can be very frustrating and seriously tiring at times. I always do the “monthly maps” and the “annual additions” in pencil and carry a big erasure because things change and move about a lot – causing me to always remember my priorities and not weaken when asked for more time to be given here or there, to that project or that person. God first!
I have learned that the Bible is true – “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you…”